December 2, 2021

Clemson, National Park Service Launch Digital Repository For National and State Parks, Over 100,000 Hi-Res Public Domain Images Already Online

From Clemson University:

Clemson University and the National Park Service have released the Open Parks Network, a digital gallery of rare and unique material from the archives of the country’s national parks, historic sites and battlefields.

The network’s website is growing perpetually and currently features more than 100,000 high-resolution, public domain images.

The project team is adding 40 photo albums of material from Yellowstone National Park to coincide with the National Park Service Centennial on Aug. 25. Brett Wright, dean of the Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences and project sponsor, said the original idea for the network was born from the desire of many park professionals to create a seamless network of information related to parks.

“Before the Open Parks Network, items in the park archives weren’t viewable unless you visited the park,” Wright said. “The network puts these treasures in the hands of anyone with an internet connection, enriches the experience of visitors and further appeals to the next generation of park-goers.”

The network’s collections are mostly photographic, but also include architectural plans and maps, all covering a wide range of topics and eras. These collections have many potential uses, such as interpretation and research that deals with pre-park history and land acquisition for park establishment. For professional park managers and rangers, the collection serves as a working body of documents to aid in park infrastructure and maintenance.

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The process required to build the collection took roughly six years, and the majority of historical items were scanned at Clemson Libraries’ Digital Imaging Lab. The team coordinated and occasionally personally moved large shipments of material to and from this facility. If materials were too fragile to move, the team was required to scan items on site. These efforts resulted in the production of nearly 350,000 digital items that continue to be published online and added to the network’s collections.

Rachel Wittmann, metadata architect at Clemson University Libraries, has spent the last three years leading the team creating metadata, which is the detailed information used to describe the wealth of digitized material from over 20 different participating parks. Wittmann said the network has already attracted genealogists who have used it as a tool to trace family histories. Many parks were inhabited by people prior to their establishment; the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is represented in the network through negatives collections and maps of familial land tract acquisition used to create the park.

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Christopher Vinson, project director and head of technology at Clemson University Libraries, notes that even though these collections are primarily historical, they still offer many uses and provide a source of inspiration for modern park employees and researchers.

“When the network helps park rangers access Blue Ridge Parkway engineering plans from any location, it saves them time and helps preserve the original plans,” Vinson said. “The collections chronicle the history of the parks being built, but they also help park employees maintain parks and do their jobs efficiently.

Direct to Open Parks Network Repository

Read the Complete Launch Announcement

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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